Today we decided to lay low in Westport. Our trip so far has been such a whirlwind: four cities, two hikes, hundreds of driving miles, and countless landmarks in five days. While this is a great way to see as much as possible, the breakneck pace was starting to get to us. Also, at the Cliffs of Moher, Emma had aggravated an old track injury in her knee, so hiking Croagh Patrick was out of the question. Instead, we decided to explore the city of Westport on bikes our AirBnb hosts had provided to us. (Biking is, in general, better on the knees than walking). There’s a great trail here that runs for miles called The Greenway, much like the Towpath in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, and it’s a great way to see the costal countryside of Ireland.
Unfortunately, we never made it onto the trail. Several minutes after we had stopped to take this photo, Emma’s back tire blew out, effectively ending our biking plans for the day. So instead, we walked our bikes the two or so miles into town, where our AirBnb host met us to pick them up. Originally, we planned on renting new bikes from a place in town, but by this time, a ride for 25 miles up and down the coastline wasn’t feasible to complete in the daylight. We’re planning on completing the trail tomorrow before we leave for Killarney.
Pictured above is the Westport town center, where we ate lunch on a bench. It turns out that Westport is a bit of a tourist town, so there were a lot of gift shops and commercialized coffee shops that we had to sift through before we found one that was truly local to Westport. Finally we stumbled across Christy’s Harvest.
While they had some pretty great coffee, they had an even better atmosphere and, to Emma’s delight, some sort of seaweed energy bar that was apparently delicious. The shop is run by a few older folks who immediately recognized our accents and asked us where we were from. When we said “Ohio,” the manager and a few people around the tables said “Oh, Cleveland, eh?” Apparently one of the regulars worked for a steel company in Ohio/Pittsburg/Baltimore a number of years ago. One of the waiters had gotten married in Cleveland as well. It was pretty weird, hearing people in Ireland talk about specific streets in the city that I live in, and I’m sure it was even weirder for Emma, who grew up around the area. Anyway, when we left, Emma said something that I had been trying to vocalize for a few days here. Overwhelmingly, whether you’re in a coffeeshop or a pub or just running into someone on the street, people treat you like family; like they’ve always known you. Maybe we’ve just gotten lucky, but our experience of the local culture and the attitude in general here is one of acceptance. It reminds me of the dynamic I enountered in my graduate program. When I was starting, I knew no one, but the upperclassmen sought me out, brought me to the party, introduced me to everyone and I went from being “a new student” to “One of us.” Maybe it’s just the Guinness. Who knows.
After we finished up at Christy’s, we stopped by a local craft shop that opened just this week. Emma had a great conversation with the owner while I contemplated the Strange New World of 10,000 scented handmade soaps. Further proving my theory on the Problem of Irish Hospitality in relation to Americans, the shop’s owner told us the history of each artisan and each piece, and gave Emma several dozen craft ideas. It was cool. The end.
Finally, we left Westport and began our Long Walk Home without our bikes. It was raining, and we only had each other and sheep for company, but it turned out alright. About a mile into our walk, our host pulled over on the side of the road and picked us up. Apparently his wife had driven by us on her way to Limerick, called him, and told him that we looked miserable. More Irish Hospitality. After, we got to meet our host’s horses, so that was cool too. P.S. At this point, it was getting pretty dark, and while the Galaxy S8’s camera has been stunning up until then, the photos are pretty grainy.
To round out the night, we grabbed dinner at Cronin’s Sheebeen, which is a local pub/restaurant. Basically, they had great food and good beer. The End.
But for real, I was really impressed with this place. I had a seafood dish, which was basically shrimp, clams, and mussels over pasta with red marinara sauce. All of their food, from the seafood to the cabbage is locally caught and sourced for the restaurant. If they run out of something, they take it off the menu. If they have an abundance of something, they make more dishes with it. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the phrase “responsible, sustainable farming” five or six times this week. As far as I know, GMO’s are pretty rare too. Even the coffee shops say “locally sourced” on most of their stuff. Also, everything has a gluten free option, which Emma loves. P.S. The beer is a Belgian white, brewed on Croagh Patrick.
Tomorrow, we’re off to hike the Greenway and then leave Westport behind. Then it’s off to Killarney.
A few more photos below that I’m too lazy to incorporate into the post:
Before we left for the day, we made breakfast, and two our of host’s dogs joined us
Wall art outside of Sheebeen’s
More of Westport